Monday, October 18, 2021

Baltimore Comic-Con returns - Randy Tischler on what to expect in 2021

by Mike Rhode

Baltimore Comic-Con is returning live this coming weekend, and I spoke with my friend Randy Tischler of the Con's Executive Staff about what people can expect this year. [UPDATED 10/20: Onsite vaccination and testing IS NOT offered, but unvaccinated or exposed guests should get a rapid test at their local pharmacy, drug store or clinic. And get vaccinated at the same time.]

 What happened to BCC in 2020?

Like so many other shows, our knee-jerk instinct was to nix the show for 2020. One of the folks we'd met the previous year, Chad Ramsden from Comic Corps, gave me a call one day and pitched the idea of doing a virtual event, as they had just had some real success teaming with a few YouTubers to put on Main Frame Comic Con and thought they could do the same for us. They had great thoughts about how it could all come together, how the Ringo Awards could be the first successfully live-streamed awards show, how there could be interactions with the audience, etc. And they genuinely pulled it off as Baltimore Comic-Con Live. You can see the videos on our YouTube channel, as well as in our Facebook videos.
Did everyone in the BCC "family" weather COVID ok?

Yes. A few staff members caught COVID, but everyone came out the other side, thankfully.
What's different about this year's con from 2019?

Good question! A number of things. First and foremost, we are going to be smaller. This is by design. For those who have been with us for many years, you'll recall that we used to be on the end of the Baltimore Convention Center closest to the Inner Harbor (vs. Camden Yards), with the fountain in the lobby area. We are back there again for this year.

We are requiring either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of initial attendance, along with a photo ID (unless it's a minor without one, in which case we will trust the guardian). We are offering free on-site rapid testing if you do not come prepared. There will also be COVID vaccinations available for those who have not received theirs yet.

The City of Baltimore has an indoor mask mandate, so those are required, must snugly cover the nose and chin, and must be an actual face mask -- see for details about what does and doesn't pass the sniff test.
Besides mask mandates and vaccination requirements, what precautions are you taking against COVID?

In addition to w hat was described above, the Baltimore Convention Center has temperature screening at their entrances now, so if someone comes in running a high fever, they will flag them and pull them aside. We will be encouraging social distancing in all queues, there will be cleanings of spaces throughout the day (such as the panel rooms between sessions), there will be hand sanitizer dispensers around the convention center and panel rooms, and everyone (on both sides of the table) will get a specific wrist-band once they have cleared the vaccination/negative test process, which is a prerequisite for getting into the show areas.
How many artists and guests are you expecting? (spellcheck initially made that "executing!")

There will be no executions this year, Mike! We're expecting a little over 125 comics guests this year, plus 14 exhibitors, 125 retailers, and 273 Artists Alley guests. The room is full (we're turning away or wait-listing people in all categories at this point).
101_9611 Thom Zahler
How many attendees? How does that compare to previous years?

Less. I don't think we'll really know until the event occurs, as we do a lot of on-site ticket sales. We're a little down relative to past years, but again, that is by design. My guess is it will feel pretty similar to past shows and there will just be fewer people in a smaller space.
Who should people be looking for, as making a special or rare BCC appearance?

We've got great premium offerings for Joe Quesada (with some exclusive prints available with his tickets) and Brian K. Vaughan this year -- Brian wasn't going to be doing any shows, but we asked and he wanted to come back again, so we were thrilled. Chris Bachalo is making his first BCC appearance, as is Becky Cloonan, John Dell, Kami Garcia, Scott Koblish, Leeanne "Mongie" Krecic, Alitha Martinez, Shawn McManus, James Pascoe, Christopher Priest, Amy Reeder, Doc Shaner, John Timms, and Wayne Vansant, just to name a few. And Joe Giella, the golden age artist, will be with us, which has generated a lot of excitement.
Is there anyone who's appearance might be under-sung that you'd like to highlight?

I think we've got some great creative teams appearing -- Brian K Vaughn and Cliff Chiang (Paper Girls), Doc Shaner, Mitch Gerads, and Tom King (Strange Adventures), Chris Bachalo and Tim Townsend (X-Men and Spider-Man titles), etc. I always enjoyed the opportunity to get books signed by multiple creators at once!
What companies are attending? Are DC and Marvel, who just sat out the NYCC? DC just did their online Fandome, so I'm guessing they're out.

Publishers in the room include AfterShock Comics, AWA Studios, Dead Reckoning, Rocketship Entertainment, and Source Point Press, plus a number of smaller press houses. A lot of the publishers currently have corporate policies against doing shows right now and are not even sending staff or talent at all. A number of our industry friends who are always at the Baltimore Comic-Con, even if they aren't exhibiting, won't be there this year unfortunately -- we miss seeing our pals! And while DC and Marvel won't be exhibiting, they'll have a lot of current representation in the room anyway (certainly in the form of Mr. Quesada for the latter!).
101_9592 Bob McCleod
Did NYCC have any lessons for you, or was it too close in time to change anything?

We really didn't hear anything that moved the needle far from where we already were. Our policies were pretty much in line to start with, though we did hear about a few of their vendors getting ousted for flaunting the mask mandate and it spurred some conversation about how we would react in a similar situation (not whether it would be replicated -- just who would have responsibility for getting that vendor out of the room!).
Are you having retailers of old comics and other vendors as usual?

Yes, as usual, we will have a very healthy retailer presence. We expect some amazing purchasing opportunities, from comics to merch and a whole lot more. People come to our show expecting to find amazing buys, and are rarely disappointed! And our Artists Alley will be filled with small press, self-publishers, artists, crafters, and more.
What's the theme of the annual yearbook? Are previous editions still available? How many years are there anyway?

This year is the Trick or Treat Edition -- no specific character or property, but guests were encouraged to incorporate their own characters into the yearbook's theme

This year's covers were by the inimitable Marty Baumann of Pixar fame (who unfortunately had to cancel his appearance this year, but we hope to see him again next year!). This is our ninth year with a show yearbook (Liberty Meadows, Usagi Yojimbo, Grendel, Mouse Guard, Archie, Tellos, Strangers in Paradise, and Blacksad prior to this year)! Fans can purchase previous years' editions through the show sponsor's website, Cards Comics & Collectibles.
What are the actual days and hours of the con?

You can come September 22-24th, Friday 1pm-7pm, Saturday 11am-7pm, or Sunday 11am-5pm!
How was your volunteer situation this year? Same people, same numbers?

Smaller show, so smaller numbers. We had some turnover by design, we had a few people with underlying health issues unable to perform in the same role, and we've got a handful of new people that will be on-hand to help us out. If anyone reading this wants to give us a hand, please reach out to us through and we'll see if there's a place we can use you!
Unlike many other larger and mid-size cons, BCC is still mostly comic book-focused. Do you anticipate that to remain the case as the industry seems to be actively shifting away from comic books?

Until Marc Nathan, the show promoter, decides he's going to sell the show, yes, I fully expect the Baltimore Comic-Con to emphasize the "Comic" part of the name. Even when we get media guests, there is a connection to comics adaptations (either from comics to screen or vice versa!). But this year, the only media guests in the room, of which I'm aware anyway, are Susan Backlinie (Jaws) and Noah Hathaway (Neverending Story) as guests of Unusual Company.
Is there a webcomics presence?

Oh definitely. While Rocketship Entertainment is a print publisher, much of their work adapts existing webcomics to print form. They'll be bringing Leeanne Krecic, the cartoonist behind the WEBTOON hit Just Play (you may know her as Mongie!) to the show, as well as Tom Akel, their publisher, who is responsible for Stan Lee's Backchannel on WEBTOON. And Saturday at 1pm, there is a panel called Making Webtoons with Trevor Mueller, Dean Haspiel, Thom Zahler, and Steve Conley, all of whom have work in that medium. And there are plenty of others doing webcomic work on the guest list and in Artists Alley too.
How about comic strips? 
Joe Staton of Dick Tracy, Steve Conley of The Middle Age webcomic, Alex Saviuk from the Amazing Spider-Man, Frank Cho did Liberty Meadows... some of our usual comic strip guests like Ramona Fradon had to skip this year due to the epidemic
How does the cosplay contingent seem to be this year?

I think it's going to be strong. Saturday at 12:30 is the Annual BCC Photo Shoot, presented by Bishop Cosplay (Harry Cee!), and our Annual Costume Contest is sponsored by the Hard Rock Cafe Baltimore, has ALL CASH prizes, and the judges are a panel of cosplayers, so we think people are going to really enjoy that this year. And we've got professional Captain America cosplayer Knightmage appearing with Hake's Auctions (in support of their bringing a Captain America shield from the MCU movies, which is up for auction), plus a number of other big-name cosplayers attending in general like Michaela Lee.
Are there panels as usual? If so, is there a streaming component?

Yes, we have our usual programming this year, though again, it will be a little smaller (giving cleaning crews the opportunity to clean the space), and our ASL interpreters will be back for those in the deaf community needing their services. We will not be streaming or recording them this year (though I really wanted to -- it was just something we couldn't pull together with all of the other moving parts!). The Ringo Awards will be live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube though!
101_9588 Don Rosa and Team Cul de Sac art 
What's the furthest someone has come to attend BCC? How about the furthest a cartoonist has come?

Asia and/or Australia in both circumstances. I recall some fans coming over from the Philippines at our last in-person event. We've had guests from Australia and the Far East, as well as South America. They've come from all over the world. We'll have a lot less of that this year, especially because of travel restrictions to the States currently in place until the beginning of next month. I saw a few folks who weren't able to come that were either supposed to be exhibiting, had tickets, or were planning to come in a Press capacity that, unfortunately, could not make it happen after all. But we're hoping the world is closer to it's normal axis of rotation next year and we can see so many of our friends (old and new!) that couldn't be with us this year. Fingers crossed!
Personally, I recommend supporting Hero Initiative, and stopping by the Kids Love Comics Pavilion.
The guest list at press time (with local cartoonists bolded) is Tom Akel (Stan Lee’s Backchannel, courtesy of Rocketship Entertainment), Chris Bachalo (Non-Stop Spider-Man), Art Baltazar (Big Alien Moon Crush), John Beatty (Secret Wars), Carolyn Belefski (Curls), Ziggy Blumenthal (Operation Pajama Pants), Ivan Brandon (VS), Russ Braun (The Boys), Brett Breeding (Superman), Reilly Brown (Deadpool), Greg Burnham (Tuskegee Heirs), Jim Calafiore (Welcome to Megalopolis), Chris Campana (The Adventures of Parker Reef), Castillo Studios, Cliff Chiang (Paper Girls), Frank Cho (Harley Quinn), Becky Cloonan (Dark Agnes), Steve Conley (The Middle Age), Steve Conte (Action Figure Kingdom), Jamie Cosley (Light Side), Kevin Cuffe (Metalshark Bro), J. Robert Deans (Crass Fed), John Dell (Lobo, courtesy of Hero Initiative), Vito Delsante (Stray), Todd Dezago (Perhapanauts), Jason Douglas (Parallel, courtesy of Source Point Press), Charles C. Dowd (Lilith Dark), Ryan Dunlavey (M.O.D.O.K. Reign Delay), Garth Ennis (The Boys, Friday and Saturday only), Trish Forstner (My Little Pony), Franco (The Ghost, The Owl), Bob Frantz (Metalshark Bro), John Gallagher (Max Meow: Cat Crusader), Kami Garcia (Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity), Mitch Gerads (Mr. Miracle), Joe Giella (Green Lantern), Mike Gold (Green Arrow), Michael Golden (Micronauts), Jimmy Gownley (Amelia Rules!), Dawn Griffin (Zorphbert & Fred), Gene Ha (Mae), Scott Hanna (Icon and Rocket), Dean Haspiel (The Red Hook), Glenn Hauman (They Keep Killing Glenn), Mike Hawthorne (Happiness Will Follow), Marc Hempel (The Sandman), Jamal Igle (Wrong Earth), Dave Johnson (The Good wiAsian), Phillip Kennedy Johnson (Alien), Karl Kesel (Impossible Jones), Tom King (Batman), Scott Koblish (Deadpool, courtesy of Hero Initiative), Leeanne M. Krecic (Let's Play, courtesy of Rocketship Entertainment), Robert Lemieux (Life in the Comics), Kevin Maguire (Justice League), Dirk Manning (Buried But Not Dead, courtesy of Source Point Press), Chris Mariano (Claire Lost Her Bear At The World's Fair), Mark Mariano (Far Out Firehouse), Alitha Martinez (Nubia), Whitney Matheson (Pandemix: Quarantine Comics in the Age of 'Rona), Ian McGinty (Adventure Time), Bob McLeod (New Mutants), Carla Speed McNeil (Finder), Pop Mhan (Aquaman Annual), Karl Moline (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Mark Morales (The Next Batman: Second Son), Trevor Mueller (Albert the Alien), Josh Neufeld (A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge), Jamar Nicholas (Leon: Protector of the Playground), Jerry Ordway (The Power of Shazam), Steve Orlando (Midnighter and Apollo, courtesy of AfterShock Comics, Saturday and Sunday only), James Pascoe (Azrael), Andrew Pepoy (Simone & Ajax), David Petersen (Mouse Guard), Khoi Pham (Star Wars: Crimson Reign), Andy Price (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic), Christopher Priest (Black Panther, courtesy of Hero Initiative), Joe Quesada (Daredevil), Tom Raney (Guardians of the Galaxy), Amy Reeder (Wonder Woman: Black and Gold), Afua Richardson (Omni), Andrew Robinson (Halo), Don Rosa (Uncle Scrooge), Jennifer Rouse (Frankenstein Mobster), Craig Rousseau (The Perhapanauts), Alex Saviuk (Web of Spider-Man), Stuart Sayger (Army of Darkness: 1979), Gregg Schigiel (SpongeBob Comics), Chris Schweizer (The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton), Doc Shaner (Strange Adventures), Jim Shooter (Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars), Matt Slay (Equilibrium), Mika Song (Donut Feed the Squirrels), Joe Staton (Dick Tracy), Brian Stelfreeze (Black Panther), Paul D. Storrie (Storm Kids: Stanley's Ghost), Arthur Suydam (Merc with a Mouth), Martha Thomases (Dakota North), John Timms (Superman: Son of Kal-El), Peter Tomasi (Batman and Robin), Ben Towle (Four-Fisted Tales: Animals in Combat), Tim Townsend (Non-Stop Spider-Man), Billy Tucci (Shi), Fred Van Lente (Action Philosophers), Brian K. Vaughan (Saga, Friday and Saturday only), Emilio Velez Jr. (The Dodgeball Teens), Robert Venditti (Hawkman), Mark Wheatley (Songs of Giants), Emily S. Whitten (The Underfoot), Matt Wieringo (Stargate Atlantis: Gateways), Keith Williams (Thor the Worthy), Marcus Williams (Tuskegee Heirs), Renee Witterstaetter (Guardians of the Galaxy), Javier Cruz Winnik (Puerto Rico Strong), Rich Woodall (Electric Black), Kelly Yates (Doctor Who), and Thom Zahler (Love and Capes). And Wayne Vansant (Courtesy of Dead Reckoning; All Quiet on the Western Front, Katusha: Girl Soldier of the Great Patriotic War, Savage Tales), Alitha Martinez (Black Panther: World of Wakanda, It’s a Bird, Nubia)

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